A Dog’s Life: a Leader’s Lesson in Compassion

By | January 16, 2019

[January 16, 2019]  The silent movie A Dog’s Life (1918) starring Charlie Chaplin is a short 33-minute comedy about a tramp and his dog.  Written, directed, and filmed during World War I, the need by the American public to witness a display of compassion was a necessary distraction from the horrors of the war.

American forces under U.S. General George Pershing had arrived in Europe nearly a year before but had not engaged in major combat by the Spring of 1918.  That would, however, quickly change as the tragic events of the war would more and more hit the front pages of every newspaper.

In the movie, poor Charlie lives in a vacant lot.  He tries to get a job, but when he gets to the head of the employment line, the jobs are gone.  Back “home” he rescues Scraps, a female mutt that was being attacked by other strays.

Set in the same atmosphere of the depressing ghettos of 1918, the Tramp becomes friends with a stray dog.  A lost soul much like himself, the Tramp and the tramp become friends and become a team.

The title indicated that this is the story of the dog, when in fact, the Dog is the Tramp!  Both are homeless and without love in their lives.  By the end of the movie, they both end up finding true love and end up living a better life, together.

I like to watch old movies.  I watch them for the action and to get a small glimpse into what made them so popular back when they were made.  Movies are made to make money, but they are also a look into the minds of those who lived at that time and what influenced popular culture.

“Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.” – Confucius, Chinese philosopher

Compassion can be found almost anywhere if you look for it.  But compassion is not something that bubbles to the surface of humankind without effort and understanding, morality and decisiveness and taking risks and fear.  The little tramp dog Scrapes provides us with something that is good.

A Dog’s Life, in its entirety, can be seen here at this YouTube link (32:33 minutes).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

31 thoughts on “A Dog’s Life: a Leader’s Lesson in Compassion

    1. Jung Hoon Kim

      Thank you. Do not need to speak english to understand.

    2. Joe Omerrod

      I’m glad that we all can see it without costs. The older films of that era were fascinating to watch.

  1. Bryan Lee

    Yes, I agree. The bond between dogs and humans has been around since before recorded history. Our goal should always be their protection and nurturing them to have full lives. Dogs are companions, friends, and protectors. Treat them well and they will love you unconditionally. I wish more humans would do this.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      We have, as humans, the responsibility to be compassionate to animals of all kinds. Dogs, cats, and horses are just a few that are closest to us.

    2. Tony B. Custer

      Excellent point. Let’s hope it’s not overlooked.

  2. Kenny Foster

    Thanks. Great job on this article today. I would be happy to see more like this and the tie you make to ‘compassion’ is spot on.

  3. Janna Faulkner

    Thanks to General Satterfield for reaching back in time to bring forward a truly classic movie that makes us smile.

  4. Ed Berkmeister

    I see some really good comments about the film. It is amazing what Charlie Chaplain could do with a little dog and one day of filming. As noted earlier, this was his first film to make over $1 million (a fortune at that time when the average pay was $1 per week).

  5. Jonnie the Bart

    Great film. Thanks. I saw this movie on TV as a kid. Watching it again had me going back mentally to the time I was with my mom and dad.

  6. Max Foster

    I can see where this movie would move people by the compassion of Charlie Chaplin to his little dog. The early 20th century was not necessarily a good time across the world. Russia has just completed its 1917 revolution before this film came out. Russia would start its path to the destruction of over 100 million of its people by 1962. The world continues to need to see and experience compassion.

  7. Forrest Gump

    Even Mutt, the tramp dog’s name, enjoyed the success of A Dog’s Life. He was adopted by Chaplin and spent the rest of his life as a valued staff member at the star’s studio. Happy ending.

  8. Lynn Pitts

    For A Dog’s Life, he shot for a day in front of the Palace Market, which became part of the studio street during editing.

  9. Ronny Fisher

    Charles Chaplin took a big step forward with the short, A Dog’s Life (1918), both artistically, historically and commercially. It was both the longest Chaplin production to that time and, he would later claim, the first in which he seriously considered comic plot construction. Commercially, it was his biggest hit to date, often advertised as his first film to make $1 million.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Charlie fit the film perfectly. Many critics have noted that the film contrasts the dog’s life led not just by Mutt, but by Chaplin’s character as well.

    2. Wesley Brown

      One of my favorite films of early 20th century. It is amazing how far we’ve come technically but our capacity for humor has not changed.

  10. Watson Bell

    From the Urban Dictionary. Interesting. its a dogs life the phrase initiated in the 16th century when dogs would guard homes and small communities, were fed scraps, slept outside and had short lives. so it meant life wasn’t good. Whereas today dogs are well fed, groomed, pampered, sleep inside and live longer, so it now means a good life.

  11. Eva Easterbrook

    “A Dog’s Life” has a run time of just 33 minutes, so give it a watch when you’re limited on time and looking for a silent film that will make you laugh out loud.

  12. Len Jakosky

    Wow, never saw it before. Compassion, yes. The best part was the little dog.

  13. Army Captain

    Great movie. Watched it just a few minutes ago. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for telling us the story.

    1. Jonnie the Bart

      Yes, great film and one of the classics. If you’ve not seen it, then go onto most websites and search it out. You can see it for free.

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